Wednesday, 20 July 2011


A Pitch Pitch gives you a chance to develop the pitch of you work in progress and to have readers make constructive comments. See what happened last time for a sense of how constructive and helpful the comments are. If you would like to offer your pitch to the scrutiny of your fellows, see the instructions under Over To You. Oh, and while you're there, check out the other ways you can appear on or influence this blog! I'm particularly looking for people who'd like to do a Job Spotlight or Writer Blog Spotlight  - good chance to grow your platform.

My thanks to the two brave writers whose pitches follow:

(A historical novel)

Britain has won the war but its old certainties are shattered.
January 1919. Leeds shop-assistant April fears she will forever remain behind a dreary shop counter. Upper-class rebel Eleanor knows she will never find love after her lover’s ambulance is shelled on the road to Amiens. Two women. Worlds apart. Both stranded in a world they no longer recognise. Both yearning for something beyond themselves. Their only link is Michael, conscientious objector and political activist, who loves them both. Their entwined roads to self-discovery and happiness take place against a backdrop of jazz, women’s emancipation and mounting industrial unrest that culminates in the General Strike of 1926.


THE MASTER'S SHADOW - by Colman O Criodain
(A novel for 12+/YA)

In 1482 a young noblewoman lies on her deathbed in a castle in Flanders. In her final moments, she makes a wish that, 500 years later, will threaten the lives of a boy and a girl living in Brussels.

The Master’s Shadow tells the story of Sean Byrne, of a fourteen-year old Irish boy, just arrived in Brussels with his enigmatic sister, Maeve to a house that is also a crime scene. Together with his classmate, sassy Stephanie Clarke, they find an illuminated manuscript, only for it to be stolen almost at once.

Where did this manuscript come from? Who was it originally made for? Is there a connection with the beautiful tomb they have seen in Bruges? Above all, why does someone want this book so badly that they are prepared to kill for it?

Part thriller and part paper-chase, this book is aimed at boys and girls of twelve and over.


Comments, please!


Dan Holloway said...

I really like the sound of The Undone Years. The only thing I'd mention about the pitch are the repetitions - of shop, and "love after her lover's". I'll be interested to see what Nicola and others say about the short partial sentences. I love them, because they make a pitch sound like a movie trailer and give it added drama, but I know some people don't. The last sentence also deflates some of the tension "takes place against a backdrop of" isn't the punchiest - it feels like we want "Against a backdrop of..., *insert something snappy* happens"
I'm glad you say Michael loves them both not they both love Michael

The master's Shadow sounds like the sort of thing I would have loved as a 12 year-old. I don't know if there's maybe a detail too much?

Great pitches and I hope you get really useful comments :)

Denise said...

Thanks for letting us look at and comment on your pitches.

For 'The Undone Years' I would change things round slightly and start the pitch with 'January 1919. Two women. Worlds apart. Both stranded in a world they no longer recognise. Both yearning for something beyond themselves.'. Then I would have started a new paragraph for the rest of the pitch. I'm not keen on the use of the word 'world' twice.

For 'The Master's Shadow' I would have finished the first paragraph after '...she makes a wish.' The next paragraph I would start in the same way as the first with the year and then 'Sean Byrne, a fourteen year old schoolboy...' I would leave the rest of it as it is.

Having read the pitches though I would definitely read both those books. Good luck!

JO said...

Good luck to you both. You are in for an interesting day. My thoughts:

The Undone Years – I like the premise, the interweaving stories of two different women.
But – do you need the first line? Most people know that January 1919 is just after the end of the war. I had to read the next few sentences a few times – you are cramming in a lot of information. I wonder if something like ‘Across the city, upper class rebel Eleanor . . .’ would emphasise that there is a link between them. And then you could cut ‘Worlds apart.’ And I’m not sure you need ‘Both yearning for something beyond themselves’ – it doesn’t tell me much.
Like the Michael sentence – I agree with Dan, the idea that he loves them both. Not sure I like ‘entwined roads’ but love the historical details at the end – this gives the novel context.

The Master’s Shadow – I can see this appealing to 12-year olds. But is it too long, as a pitch. I think you can write ‘2 children’ in place of ‘a boy and a girl’ – their gender is obvious when you give their names. Do you need the adjectives – enigmatic and sassy? And I’m very unsure about ‘house that is also a crime scene’ – it feels too vague. Either cut it, or say what the crime was.
I’m not sure what the protocol is on all those questions. I like the way they give hints about the story. An agent or publisher might need to comment on those.

Having said all that, I'm new to this pitching game. the very best of luck.

Lesley said...

The Undone Years - I really like the premise, but I would agree with other commenters that you don't really need the "January 1919." I think because you mention the General Strike of 1926, you don't need use the start date to identify which war this is following, which I think is all it adds to the pitch. I liked the repetition of "both," but I might aim for a third one, because I always think three things like that sound more...I can't think of the right word, so dramatic will have to do.

The Master's Shadow - I'm intrigued by this one, it sounds really interesting. I would probably cut the "in a castle" from the opening line, though, to make it a bit punchier. I was also a little confused by Stephanie, you say she's Sean's classmate, but is she someone they've met in Brussels or someone from home who also happens to be there? I only ask because I thought the name Stephanie Clarke sounded quite British, and I couldn't place where she had come from. If she is someone from Brussels, maybe just calling her "his new character" would clear that up.

Thomas Taylor said...

The Master's Shadow:

I would definitely drop both 'enigmatic' and 'sassy' -- the former seems like an odd thing to say of ones own sister, while the latter is a cliche. Which heroine isn't sassy these days? In fact the first sentence of the second para contains too much information and has punctuation issues, but nothing that can't be fixed easily.

I really like the sound of this book!

womagwriter said...

Both sound like enticing books to me.

I'd agree with starting the first pitch with the Two women. Worlds apart line.

My only comment on the second pitch would be to question the rhetorical questions. Do you really need them? Having followed Nicola's link the other day to the Behler blog, I am currently wary of them.

Anna Bowles said...

Based on Colman's pitch, I'd definitely go on to read the MS (leaving aside some commercial concerns about whether Irish kids in Belgium is a seller in the UK - an Irish publisher presumably wouldn't have that issue.)

To nitpick: I found the term 'paper chase' distracting (I don't know what it means, but it sounds like it means 'looking around for documents', which is not very gripping!), 'sassy' rings wrongly as other people have suggested, and from this description I'd call the book 12+ rather than 12+/YA. The pitch could do with a light copy edit, e.g. 'this book' is used twice.

But basically if it turned up on my desk I'd take a look.

Anonymous said...

Well done both for putting your pitches on here. You've made your books sound enticing.
The Undone Years - I do like the partial sentences, but four in a row seems too many to me. Maybe elide the first two? "Two women, worlds apart."
I'm not sure 'entwined roads' can 'take place'. Maybe 'journeys' instead?
The Master's Shadow - the premise is certainly very intriguing and I'd read further. A couple of nitpicks: 'the story of Sean Byrne, of a...' is repetition (you don't need the second 'of'), and as his name is Sean Byrne, do we need to be told that he's Irish? Maybe 'the story of fourteen-year-old Sean Byrne', which also simplifies the sentence. Others have already mentioned the tailback of rhetorical questions, but as this isn't a synopsis I guess it's ok? And I too wasn't sure about 'paper-chase' - makes it sound a bit childish for a thriller, and I'm not sure exactly what it means. And I'd say "aimed at children" rather than "boys and girls".
I too am a beginner, so please don't take what I say as gospel.
Good luck to both of you.

Tamlyn said...

The Undone Years – I’m afraid I didn’t like the partial sentences. The pitch reads to me like a movie voice over and the partial sentences especially don’t tell me anything that you haven’t already said in the other parts of it or don’t really say anything (eg Both yearning for something beyond themselves.)
Michael piques my interest – I want to know how someone knows both women (who are definitely very different) let alone loves them both. I like the first sentence (Britain has won...) but given I kept forgetting about it, I’m not sure it’s relevant.

The Master’s Shadow – I agree with the comments about ‘sassy’ and ‘engimatic’. The second paragraph reads awkwardly to me – maybe needs some rearranging/breaking up of sentences? I also agree with the person who was confused as to whether Stephanie was a new classmate in Brussels they made friends with or if she came with them. I don’t mind rhetorical questions, but I think four might be a few too many.
I have to ask why the children are in danger of being killed for the manuscript when they don’t have it and only had it for a very short time (a day?). I understand that they are probably in danger when they follow up on the manuscript (how? Do they realise a connection before it’s stolen? Do they discover who stole it?), but it doesn’t come across clearly to me.
On a side note, when I read the dying noblewoman makes a wish that affects the kids 500 years later I presumed magic/supernatural/something, but the rest of the pitch (manuscript, crime, etc) makes it seem more like a material/mundane thing. That might have just been me though.

I hope something I've said is helpful :)

Sally Zigmond said...

Many thanks to those who took the time and trouble to comment on my pitch for The Undone Years. They were perceptive, helpful and thought-provoking. Changes will be made. Thanks also to Nicola for giving me this opportunity.

Reluctant Irishman said...

Many thanks for the comments on The Master's Shadow. I take encouragement from them but I agree with some of the criticisms, especially the adjectives. Thank you all for taking the time and the trouble to comment

Scooter Carlyle said...

I'm new to crafting pitches myself, but I had a few thoughts. You both are tremendously brave. I found that I'd been procrastinating on doing this very thing until recently because it's so scary.

THe Undone Years: I think this pitch works well until the last sentence. I'm not big on short sentence fragments, but it works all right. You gave specifics until the last sentence. Personally, if your book is about self-discovery, I don't think you should label it as such because so many folks have done it that it's become cliche. The sentence is also very ambiguous. I would put something specific about the conflict between a man and his two lovers.

The Master's Shadow- It sounds as though the story is really about Sean and his sister. Start with that. Also, start with a conflict and resist the urge to set the scene. Everything I've read on pitching also urges folks to avoid describing characters, such as "sassy Stephanie," and, "enigmatic Maeve." SHOW why they are sassy and enigmatic and sassy.